On February 24, 1989, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper begins investigating a murder in Twin Peaks, Washington. A logger had found the dead naked body of homecoming queen Laura Palmer–naked if you don’t count her being wrapped in plastic.
At first, it seems like an odd event in an otherwise normal town. But as Agent Cooper discovers, while working with local Sheriff Harry S. Truman, going into Twin Peaks is like going down a rabbit hole. Things seem pretty normal on the surface. But once you start going down….
The 1990 ABC network television program Twin Peaks was created by its Executive Producers Mark Frost and David Lynch. It was nominated for dozens of awards, and won Emmy, Golden Globe, Saturn, and TCA Awards, and a Grammy Award. The surrealistic mystery serial drama is often listed as one of the greatest television programs of all time.
But the ratings for the series dropped after Laura’s killer was revealed. So it was cancelled in its second season.
But it didn’t stop there. In addition to The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer published during the show’s run, there was the 1992 prequel feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. And Queen of Hearts: A Twin Peaks Fan Film. And more books. And merchandise. And references in The Simpsons, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Soul Eater, The Evil Within 2, a song by Anthrax, and more. And, a quarter of a century later in 2017, the series came back for its third season named Twin Peaks: The Return on Showtime.
And, yes, there’s Twin Peaks Day. In 2018, the mayors of Snoqualmie and North Bend, which were both used for filming the series, declared the holiday to be held on February 24. And the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce and North Bend Downtown Foundation are celebrating “Real Twin Peaks Days” from February 24 – 26, 2023.
In addition to Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean), the show features a number of fascinating characters. Most of these are found in the town of Twin Peaks, located just five miles south of the Canadian border. But some are found…elsewhere.
Pete Martell (Jack Nance) is the lumberjack who discovered Laura’s body which was examined by Doctor Will Hayward (Warren Frost). Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson) helps as the sheriff station’s secretary. The father of Meals on Wheels volunteer Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is attorney Leland Palmer (Ray Wise). At Laura’s funeral, the horribly distraught father throws himself into her grave, and has to be pulled out. Fitting the series’ twin theme, he changes when Laura’s virtual twin cousin Maddy Ferguson (Sheryl Lee) comes to town. The Double R Diner, which serves the series’ iconic “coffee and cherry pie,” is owned by Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) who employs the troubled waitress Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick).
Laura’s double life includes known boyfriend Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) and secret swain James Hurley (James Marshall). But in Twin Peaks, leading a double life/having secret affairs is almost the norm. James’ uncle is Truman’s “unofficial deputy” “Big” Ed Hurley (Everett McGill). Laura’s good-girl best friend, and Dr. Hayward’s daughter, is Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle). And there’s also not-so-good girl Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). Audrey’s father Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer), the town’s richest, but not most honorable, man owns The Great Northern Hotel where many of the program’s events occur. Jocelyn “Josie” Packard (Joan Chen) owns the lucrative Packard Mill actually run by Pete’s wife Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie).
And someone owns One-Eyed Jack’s, a casino and brothel located in Canada, just north of the Washington border. But perhaps no one owns the Black and White Lodges, extra dimensional domains, with the first including the Red Room that Agent Cooper visits in a dream.
The large ensemble casts includes many more people who appear in “real life” or in dreams and visions. These include a lady who claims she gets messages from her log, a being known as BOB and another known as MIKE, a giant, “a man in a smiling bag,” a dancing dwarf, and more. And “the owls are not what they seem.”
Yes, there’s the obvious. Sheriff Harry S. Truman has the same name as a former American president. But there’s more connections, both to things before and after the series. Some of them are so obscure even most Twin Peaks’ fans won’t know them all.
- Exactly what led to the creation of a fictional work is something even the creators often don’t know. But Frost and Lynch were at least partially inspired by the real-life 1908 murder of Hazel Drew. Hazel, like Laura, was a murdered young woman whose dead body was found at a body of water. And, like Laura Palmer, she apparently led a double life.
- “Twin Peaks” literally refers to two hills pictured in the town’s welcome sign that are quite similar, but different. And the themes of twin, double life, doppelganger are found throughout the series. The mysterious beings BOB and MIKE carry the same names as the program’s teenage friends Bobby and Mike. And there’s the name of the town’s main restaurant, the Double R Diner, and the double life of the thought-to-be-innocent-maiden Laura Palmer.
But the fictional Twin Peaks, located in an area that in real life was once “American Indian” territory, has another double meaning. It bears the same name as two hills outside the city of San Francisco, California. Before that city came under American control in the 19th century, Spanish conquistadors named the hills “Los Pechos de la Chola.” In English, that means “Breasts of the Indian Maiden.”
- In the ABC television program, cousins Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson have different personalities, but physically are virtually identical twins (both played by the same actress). In the 1963 ABC television program The Patty Duke Show, Patty Lane and Cathy Lane have different personalities, but physically are virtually identical twins (both played by the same actress).
- Phillip Gerard is a one-armed man. He becomes involved in the continuing investigation of the murder of a woman who failed to give birth to a child. In the 1963 ABC television program The Fugitive, Philip Gerard is involved in the investigation of the murder of a woman who failed to give birth to a child, a murder involving a one-armed man.
- BOB is the name of a mysterious, supernaturally-attuned, person in Twin Peaks. The unusual rendering of the common name Bob could be linked to the unusual rendering of the name of the mysterious, supernaturally-attuned “Bob” of the Church of the SubGenius.
- The mystical revelation of BOB involves a traveling shoe salesman. The mystical revelation of the SubGenius “Bob” involves a traveling shoe salesman.
- Series co-creator Mark Frost and Doctor Hayward portrayer Warren Frost are son and father.
- Twin Peaks features FBI investigations that lead into the paranormal. The later program The X-Files features FBI investigations into the paranormal. And one actor appeared as an investigator on both: The X-Files star David Duchovny.
- The brother of Benjamin “Ben” Horne is Jeremy “Jerry” Horne. Ben & Jerry’s is a popular ice cream brand.
I have a personal if surrealistic connection to Twin Peaks.
Years ago, I spent part of two days trying to fix my roommate’s computer. I kept getting to the same point, then nothing I tried worked. On the second day, I grew tired, and took a nap.
In my dream, I was working on the computer just like in real life–only Angelo Badalamenti’s theme from Twin Peaks was playing in the background. My fingers moved on the computer keyboard, all on their own.
I woke up. I immediately asked my roommate to play the theme from Twin Peaks, and to set it to repeat and repeat. My roommate did so, then drove to the local post office.
Fully awake, I got to the point where I’d gotten stuck over and over again. But, with the Twin Peaks’ theme music playing in the background, I let my fingers move on the keyboard without thinking about what they were doing. By the time my roommate got back from the short trip to the post office, the computer problem was solved.
To this day, I have no idea what I did, and don’t know what unseen force guided me. (Although I suspect it was simply my subconscious mind working without my conscious mind getting in the way….)
So have a happy Twin Peaks Day!
Alden Loveshade first thought of emself as a writer when in 3rd grade. E first wrote professionally when e was 16 years old, and later did professional photography and art/graphic design. Alden has professionally published news/sports/humorous/and feature articles, poems, columns, reviews, stories, scripts, books, and school lunch menus.